Safety Feature Shown To Prevent Truck Accident Deaths But Resisted by Industry

Why won’t the federal government mandate and the trucking industry voluntarily accept a safety feature that’s been proven to prevent fatal trucking accidents?

That safety feature is called an underride guard.  These guards are required for the back of trailers, but critics maintain that federal design standards for them are lacking.  And safety experts argue that similar guards attached to the sides of trailers, which currently aren’t required, would prevent needless truck crash deaths.

Rear Underride Guards Required for Commercial Trailers

Federal safety standards for rear underride guards – that collection of bars located on the back of a commercial trailer – were first established in the 1980s.  Their purpose is to prevent smaller passenger vehicles from sliding underneath the trailer when a rear crash occurs.  A distracted truck driver may stop abruptly leaving a following vehicle little time to react.  Fatal injuries could occur when the car wedges underneath the trailer.

Safety experts, however, are calling for stronger rear underride guards that would better protect passenger vehicle drivers and occupants.  Critics claim that many of today’s underride guards aren’t strong enough uniformly, especially toward the ends, to provide adequate protection for passenger cars.  In 2015, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced its intentions to implement new, more stringent design standards.  Since then, however, the safety agency has taken no further action.

300 People Killed in Side Truck Collisions

And today’s trailers hauled by commercial trucks aren’t required to have similar protection on the sides, despite evidence that they would save lives.

The most recent data, from 2015, shows that more than 300 people died in side-collision trucking accidents.  When a tractor-trailer suddenly jackknifes, for example, passenger cars traveling in either direction of the roadway may be in danger of slamming into the trailer’s sides.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – a nonprofit safety organization based in Arlington, VA – has long advocated for stronger truck rear underride guards.  In May 2017, the organization’s testing validated its call for side underride guards on semitrailers as well.

The IIHS conducted two tests involving a mid-size passenger vehicle hitting the side of a 53-foot trailer at 35 mph.  One test used a trailer fitted with fiberglass side skirts, which are employed only to improve aerodynamics and gas mileage. The other used actual side underride guards.

The side underride guards stopped the car from going under the side of the trailer, minimizing damages and physical injuries.  In the test involving the trailer with the aerodynamic protection (but no real crash protection), the car went completely under the trailer, shearing off the roof.  The IIHS reported that real-life occupants of that vehicle likely would have suffered fatal injuries.

Despite this projected life-saving benefit, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association has resisted calls for mandating side underride guards, citing low customer demand and technology challenges.

Safety advocates argue that any known factors that can help avoid truck crash deaths should not be dismissed simply for economic reasons.

If you were seriously injured or had a family member die in a crash involving a commercial truck, an experienced truck accident attorney can investigate on your behalf and hold accountable all whose negligence contributed to the outcome.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles August 30, 2017